Text: Thomas Ollive Mabbott (and E. A. Poe), “The Raven,” The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. I: Poems (1969), pp. 350-374 (This material is protected by copyright)


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


­[page 350, continued:]

THE RAVEN

“The Raven” is Poe’s most famous composition. Like the short stories, it was written to please all kinds of readers, and it was immediately successful. Not only was it copied in countless newspapers at once, but it soon was to be found in textbooks and anthologies. Since it is, despite all its elaborate metrical ornamentation, a straightforward narrative, it can be and has been translated into every major language. Woodberry wrote of it: “No great poem ever established itself so immediately, so widely, and so imperishably in men’s minds.”(1) ­[page 351:]

The subject is of universal appeal, for every mature person has lost someone beloved, and even for the firm believer in immortality death is a separation from the living. Poe himself said (in his “Philosophy of Composition”) that his poem was emblematic of undying remembrance. The best comment I have seen is the remark of Charles Fenno Hoffman: “It is greater than we know — it is Despair brooding over Wisdom.”(2)

There can be no doubt that Poe himself regarded it as a masterpiece. In the New-York Tribune of November 26, 1845, Margaret Fuller, who had certainly discussed the poem with him, called it “a rare and finished specimen . . . intended to show [his] artistic skill.” On December 15, 1846, he wrote to George Eveleth that while “in the higher qualities of poetry [‘The Sleeper’] is better than ‘The Raven’ . . . The Raven, of course, is far the better as a work of art.” He told Frederick Saunders, later for many years chief librarian of the Astor Library, that he was sure that “future generations will be able to sift the gold from the dross, and then ‘The Raven’ will be beheld, shining above them all as a diamond of purest water.”(3) On the other hand, he wrote to his close friend, F. W. Thomas, on May 4, 1845: “ ‘The Raven’ has had a great run . . . but I wrote it for the express purpose of running — just as I did ‘The Gold-Bug’ . . . the bird beat the bug, though, all hollow.”

Evidence of the interest excited by “The Raven” is to be found not only in its innumerable reprintings and many translations but ­[page 352:] also in the imitations that continue to appear. More than a dozen circulated during Poe’s lifetime;(4) one of them so pleased him that he polished it, and hence part of “To the Author of the Raven” by Harriet Winslow appears in this volume among the Collaborations below.

The great popularity of “The Raven” gave rise to many stories concerning its genesis. In many cases the development of Poe’s poems can be traced through several successive versions, but in the case of “The Raven” no early forms are known. Legend, however, and some remarks by Poe himself indicate that there may have been, in the poet’s mind if not on paper, at least two precursors. I give here what is firmly or with some probability known about these. ­[page 353:]

PRECURSORS OF THE RAVEN

The Parrot

In his “Philosophy of Composition,” which includes a partly fictional account of the planning of “The Raven,” Poe said that as a pretext for the repetition of the word “Nevermore,” there “arose the idea of a non-reasoning creature capable of speech; and very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven, as equally capable of speech.” The word “forthwith” is part of the fictional element. As early as 1829, Poe wrote in “Romance” of “a painted paroquet” who “taught me my alphabet to say.” And in Roderick Usher’s library (in “The Fall of the House of Usher” of 1839) Poe placed the poem Ver-Vert (1734) by Jean Baptiste Louis Gresset, which concerns a parrot to whose remarks more meaning is attached than the poor bird understands.

The parrot as a precursor of the Raven is given support in the otherwise almost valueless Edgar Allan Poe (1901), by Colonel John A. Joyce, who tells a story (p. 78) that has a ring of truth about it. Joyce says:

[Mathew] Brady, the noted photographer, told me in 1866 that he met Poe [in Washington] in March, 1843, at the house of the widow Barrett, where he was rooming on New York Avenue, south side, near the junction of H and Thirteenth Streets, adjoining the “Halls of the Ancients” . . . In one of his “moody moments,” as Brady expressed it, he wrote the first draft of “The Raven.”

Now the same Colonel Joyce, in the book just referred to (p. 207), claimed that Poe “plagiarized” his “Raven” from an Italian poem called “The Parrot” by Leo Penzoni in the Milan Art Journal of 1809. Penzoni and the periodical are unknown to bibliographers, and the English “translation” presented is obviously a concoction by Joyce. But did he get an idea of a parrot from some remark of Brady’s?

The Owl

During his stay in Richmond in 1849, Poe discussed the composition of “The Raven” with Susan Talley: ­[page 354:]

His first intention, he said, had been to write a short poem only, based upon the incident of an Owl — a night-bird, the bird of wisdom — with its ghostly presence and inscrutable gaze entering the window of a vault or chamber where he sat beside the bier of the lost Lenore. Then he had exchanged the Owl for the Raven, for the sake of the latter’s “Nevermore”; and the poem, despite himself, had grown beyond the length originally intended.(5)

She thought several phrases in “The Raven” were possibly survivors from the verses on the Owl, for they were more appropriate for the glaring-eyed bird of Pallas Athena: in particular “the bust of Pallas,” “the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,” and “his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s.”

In this connection it may be noticed that Poe must have seen “The Old Night Owl” by James Rees, dated June 20, in the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper of June 28, 1843, the very same issue in which appeared the first part of Poe’s own “Gold-Bug” — of which Rees was to write a dramatization produced on August 8, 1843. In the following extracts I have italicized the parts that may have impressed Poe.

The old night owl sat in the hollow tree,

While the winds they passed him fearfully

His eye like a demon’s glar’d around,

And from his throat came this mournful sound

Ha, woo! ha, woo! . . .

 

Far, far aloft, on the night-wind floats —

Ha, woo! ha, woo! . . .

 

He courts no kin, in his woody haunt,

But to himself all night doth chaunt . . .

Ha, woo! ha, woo! . . .

SOURCES

Poe obviously took considerable interest in stories and legends about ravens, and in real birds of the species too. Few little boys sojourning in the British metropolis fail to see the ravens stalking about the Tower of London. The story may not be wholly fabulous that Poe once said to Cornelius Mathews: “That bird [a raven], that imp bird pursues me, mentally, perpetually; I cannot rid ­[page 355:] myself of its presence; . . . I hear its croak as I used to hear it at Stoke Newington, the flap of its wings in my ear.”(6)

Poe’s friend Henry B. Hirst kept a bird store and owned a tame raven, and Poe apparently studied it to good purpose.(7) The artist George W. Peck, reviewing Poe’s Works in the American Review, March 1850, wrote (p. 310):

There is not, in all poetry . . . a more vivid picture . . . than in this poem . . . The “tapping,” the appearance of the Raven, and all his doings and sayings are . . . perfectly in character (we were once the “unhappy master” of one of these birds) . . . Poe . . . considered what motions a bird of that species would . . . make, and concluded to choose the most natural, as the most fantastic.

In reviewing Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge in Graham’s for February 1842, Poe wrote: “The raven . . . might have been made . . . a portion of the conception of the fantastic Barnaby. Its croakings might have been prophetically heard in the course of the drama.” Dickens’ raven Grip is fond of saying “I’m a devil,” and on one occasion when Barnaby says, “Grip hopes, but who cares for Grip?” the raven answers, “Nobody.” Barnaby’s mother warns that dreams and ghosts are abroad, and Dickens mentions a bright red light shining in the raven’s eye as he and his owner ­[page 356:] look out at the buildings burning during the Gordon riots. It is perhaps significant that Poe began his “Philosophy of Composition” with a reference to a letter he had received from Dickens, and he made his own raven a prophet.(8)

A number of poems have been mentioned as possible contributory sources for “The Raven.” Some have been discussed in connection with “Lenore” and “Eulalie” (which like the tale “Eleonora” are akin to the more famous poem), and others are mentioned in my notes on individual parts of the poem below. I relegate some other decidedly peripheral things to a footnote here.(9) But unquestionably the cardinal source of the final stanzaic form of Poe’s poem was Elizabeth Barrett’s “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship” (1844). A few of the lines that probably influenced him follow, from the original first American edition; some were revised in later publications.

“Eyes,” he said, “now throbbing through me! are ye eyes that did undo me?

Shining eyes, like antique jewels set in Parian statue-stone!

Underneath that calm white forehead, are ye ever burning torrid,

O’er the desolate sand-desert of my heart and life undone?

With a rushing stir, uncertain, in the air, the purple curtain

Swelleth in and swelleth out around her motionless pale brows;

While the gliding of the river sends a rippling noise forever

Through the open casement whitened by the moonlight’s slant repose.

· · · · ·

Ever, evermore the while in a slow silence she kept smiling . . .

Miss Barrett used the last line quoted as a kind of refrain.

In his review in the Broadway Journal of January 11, 1845, of Miss Barrett’s Drama of Exile and Other Poems, Poe said that “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship” combined “the fiercest passion . . . with the most ethereal fancy” but that it was a “palpable imitation” of Tennyson’s “Locksley Hall.” Poe’s dedication of his volume ­[page 357:] The Raven and Other Poems (1845) to Miss Barrett seems to be a tacit recognition of his own similar debt to her.(10)

The acknowledged source of Poe’s metrical form rules out mere alternative suggestions, but one of them is so well known that it must be noticed. Dr. Thomas Holley Chivers had a notion that Poe “plagiarized” from a poem in memory of the doctor’s little daughter, “To Allegra Florence in Heaven.” In the Macon Georgia Citizen of July 12, 1850, he claimed he had sent Poe the following stanza:

Holy angels now are bending

To receive thy soul ascending

Up to Heaven to joys unending,

And to bliss which is divine;

While thy pale cold form is fading

Under Death’s dark wing now shading

Thee with gloom which is pervading

This poor broken heart of mine!

This does not seem to me much like Poe’s poem, but a surprising number of people have thought it so.(11)

COMPOSITION

Since the metrical form of “The Raven” as we have it seems to place its composition not earlier than 1844, the poem must be ascribed to that year. The date of publication very early in 1845 makes such an ascription sure. Nevertheless, various stories about its composition persist.

Susan Archer Talley Weiss recalled that in Poe’s conversation with her about the poem in 1849 he told her that it “had lain for ­[page 358:] more than ten years in his desk unfinished, while he would at long intervals work on it, adding a few words or lines, altering, omitting, or even changing the plan or idea of the poem in the endeavor to make of it something which would satisfy himself.”(12)

At the Yaddo Artists’ Colony near Saratoga, New York, there is a tradition that Poe composed a version of “The Raven” while visiting the Barhyte Trout Pond there in 1843. He is said to have discussed the poem with Ann Van Riper Gillespie Barhyte, wife of the owner, John Barhyte, and herself a poet. Their children, James and Mary, remembered Poe, and the former claimed to have heard Poe reciting parts of the poem aloud in the open air. Poe did sometimes compose aloud, and the story is well witnessed. Since Mrs. Barhyte died in April 1844, the date is fixed as prior to the time Poe composed a version of his poem he finally published.(13) Woodberry (Life, II, 113) suggested that it was this (Saratoga) version of the poem that was rejected by Graham in Philadelphia, as described below.

The story told at the General Wayne Inn, Merion, Pennsylvania, that Poe wrote part of “The Raven” there seems to me due to the zeal of a local historian.

We do have a definite story, indubitably true, of how Poe wrote another version of the poem, probably the one he actually submitted for publication. While boarding at the farm of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Henry Brennan near the Hudson River late in 1844, Poe one day (it is said) sat down and began to write steadily; as he finished a sheet of paper he laid it on the floor. The eldest daughter of the family, fifteen-year-old Martha Susannah (whom Poe called “the little lady”), picked up the sheets and arranged them, and found the work was a poem called “The Raven.” The ­[page 359:] fullest account comes from Martha’s husband, General James R. O’Beirne, in the New York Mail and Express of April 21, 1900. Other members of the family told the story without important discrepancies. Mary Brennan, Martha’s mother, told Gill she heard Poe composing viva voce on occasion, and there is family tradition that Poe read his famous poem to her before its publication.(14)

Poe admitted freely that his “Philosophy of Composition,” published in Graham’s Magazine for April 1846, was not expected to be taken as literal truth, but it is a dramatized account of the actual writing of the earliest published version. Poe’s descriptions of his intentions are serious, and that he planned the antepenultimate stanza first may be true.

Wholly irresponsible stories of Poe writing his masterpiece after 1845 have been told.(15) And there have been claims that Poe’s poem is either largely or in part a translation,(16) and even that it was composed by somebody else.(17)

PUBLICATION

When Poe had decided that the poem was in a form fit for publication in a magazine, he took his manuscript to Philadelphia, ­[page 360:] where he tried to sell it. Horace Wemyss Smith related that he was in George R. Graham’s office when the poem was offered, and declared that he carried to Poe fifteen dollars, “contributed by Mr. Graham, Mr. Godey, Mr. [Morton] McMichael and others, who condemned the poem, but gave the money as charity.”(18) Mrs. Weiss in her Home Life of Poe (p. 107) records that William Johnston, Graham’s office boy, said he was present when Poe read the poem, but that he saw no subscription taken up. She sensibly remarks that this was probably done when the office boy was not in the room. In his still unprinted “Living Writers of America” manuscript, Poe himself refers to a rejection of his “Raven.”

He had better luck with George Hooker Colton, a young man who was establishing The American Review: A Whig Journal as a “five-dollar monthly” in New York. For its second number (February 1845) he bought “The Raven,” probably for fifteen dollars, fair compensation at space rates.(19) The piece was printed with a pseudonym, “—— Quarles,” appropriate to an emblematic popular poem since the best-known work of Francis Quarles is called Emblems (1635) and his verses were long treasured by people who read little else save the Bible. Some doubts of the success of the poem led Colton to print the following introduction, in which it is thought Poe had a hand.

The following lines from a correspondent — besides the deep quaint strain of the sentiment, and the curious introduction of some ludicrous touches amidst the serious and impressive, as was doubtless intended by the author — appear to us one of the most felicitous specimens of unique rhyming which ­[page 361:] has for some time met our eye. The resources of English rhythm for varieties of melody, measure, and sound, producing corresponding diversities of effect, have been thoroughly studied, much more perceived, by very few poets in the language. While the classic tongues, especially the Greek, possess, by power of accent, several advantages for versification over our own, chiefly through greater abundance of spondaic feet, we have other and very great advantages of sound by the modern usage of rhyme. Alliteration is nearly the only effect of that kind which the ancients had in common with us. It will be seen that much of the melody of “The Raven” arises from alliteration, and the studious use of similar sounds in unusual places. In regard to its measure, it may be noted that if all the verses were like the second, they might properly be placed merely in short lines, producing a not uncommon form; but the presence in all the others of one line — mostly the second in the verse — which flows continuously, with only an aspirate pause in the middle, like that before the short line in the Sapphic Adonic, while the fifth has at the middle pause no similarity of sound with any part beside, give the versification an entirely different effect. We could wish the capacities of our noble language, in prosody, were better understood. — ED. AM. REVIEW.

If Poe had doubts about his poem, they vanished before publication. “The Raven” is in the third sheet of the magazine, not the last, and was printed off before the issue was complete. Poe showed the poem to N. P. Willis, and they decided that it should be first published with the author’s name. In the Evening Mirror of January 29, 1845, it was so published with Willis’ famous introduction:

We are permitted to copy (in advance of publication) from the 2d No. of the American Review, the following remarkable poem by EDGAR POE. In our opinion, it is the most effective single example of “fugitive poetry” ever published in this country; and unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent, sustaining of imaginative lift and “pokerishness.” It is one of these “dainties bred in a book” which we feed on. It will stick to the memory of everybody who reads it.(20)

Poe also sent the poem to Benjamin B. Minor of the Southern Literary Messenger, who published it in the March number with the following introduction, of which the second paragraph is quoted from the New York Morning Express of February 5, 1845.

The following poem first appeared, we think, in the Evening Mirror; though intended for the American Review. It has since been frequently republished with the highest approbation. Still we take pleasure in presenting ­[page 362:] it to our readers, who must remember with delight many of the contributions of Mr. Poe to the Messenger.

Mr. Brooks, editor of the New York Express, says:

There is a poem in this book, (The American Whig Review,) which far surpasses anything that has been done even by the best poets of the age: — indeed there are none of them who could pretend to enter into competition with it, except, perhaps, Alfred Tennyson; and he only to be excelled out of measure. Nothing can be conceived more effective than the settled melancholy of the poet bordering upon sullen despair, and the personification of this despair in The Raven settling over the poet’s door, to depart thence “Nevermore.” In power and originality of versification the whole is no less remarkable than it is, psychologically, a wonder.

Within a week of the poem’s first publication, Poe eliminated its most obvious fault, the “bad rhyme” in the eleventh stanza, sending the changes to J. A. Shea for the New-York Tribune, but he made other changes occasionally until the last months of his life, and even then was not satisfied with a few words and phrases. We know which these are because he talked them over with Susan Talley, who gives a record of what he pointed out to her. She comments that she knew he discussed the poem with at least two other persons in Richmond.(21)

When the latest version of “The Raven” was published in the Richmond Semi-Weekly Examiner of September 25, 1849, the editor, John M. Daniel, one of those who had discussed the poem with Poe, added a long introduction.(22) This is here abridged, but ­[page 363:] so as to include the statements most probably inspired by the poet’s conversation:

Mr. Edgar A. Poe lectured again last night . . . and concluded . . . with . . . The Raven . . .(23) we furnish our readers, to-day, with the only correct copy ever published — which we are enabled to do by the courtesy of Mr. Poe himself . . . To build theories, principles, religions . . . is the business of the argumentative, not of the poetic faculty. The business of poetry is to minister to the sense of the beautiful . . . That sense is a simple element in our nature . . . the art which ministers to it may . . . be said to have an ultimate end in so ministering. This the “Raven” does in an eminent degree. It has no allegory in it, no purpose — or a very slight one . . . In the last stanza is an image of settled despair . . . which throws a gleam of meaning and allegory over the entire poem — making it all a personification of that passion — but that stanza is . . . unconnected with the original poem. The “Raven” itself is a mere narrative of simple events. A bird . . . taught to speak by some former master, is lost in a stormy night, is attracted by the light of a student’s window . . . and flutters against it. Then against the door. The student fancies it a visitor, opens the door, and the chance word uttered by the bird suggests to him memories and fancies connected with . . . his dead sweetheart or wife. Such is the poem. The last stanza is an afterthought . . . the “Raven” is a gem of art.

 

TEXTS

(A) American Review, February 1845 (1:143-145); (B) New York Evening Mirror, January 29, 1845, reprinted from same types in the weekly New-York Mirror for February 8; (C) Southern Literary Messenger, March 1845 (11:186-188); (D) letter to J. Augustus Shea, February 3, 1845, now in the Pierpont Morgan Library (lines 60-66); (E) New-York Tribune, February 4, 1845; (F) Broadway Journal, February 8, 1845 (1:90); (G) Broadway Journal, May 24, 1845 (1:330; lines 3-4 in a review); (H) London Critic, June 14, 1845; (J) The Raven and Other Poems (New York, 1845; copyright September 12), pp. 1-5; (K) manuscript written as an autograph, late 1845 (lines 103-108); (L) New York Literary Emporium, December 1845 (2:376-378); (M) Graham’s Magazine for April 1846 (28:165-167; many lines quoted in “The Philosophy of Composition”); (N) Philadelphia Saturday Courier, July 25, 1846; (P) Rufus W. Griswold’s Poets and Poetry of America (8th edition, published May 29, 1847) pp. 432-433; (Q) Southern Literary Messenger, January 1848 (14:34-35; lines 1-6, 9-18, 37-108, in Philip Pendleton Cooke’s “Edgar A. Poe”); (R) manuscript “Inscribed to Dr. S. A. Whittaker of Phoenixville [Pennsylvania],” September 1848; (S) J. Lorimer Graham copy of The Raven . . . (1845) with manuscript revisions, 1846-1849; (T) Richmond Semi-Weekly Examiner, September 25, 1849; (U) Philadelphia Saturday Courier, November 3, 1849; (W) Works (1850), II, 7-11. ­[page 364:]

The first printing is certainly that of the American Review (A); the first publication, that in the Evening Mirror (B), as described in Willis’s introduction. Poe arranged for the printing (from the early version) in the Southern Literary Messenger (C), and in his letter to Shea (D) he sent the first important changes, which were followed in the New-York Tribune (E). Poe’s known connection with the Broadway Journal validates the texts there (F, G). The London printing (H) probably was arranged by Richard Hengist Horne. The text in Poe’s volume of 1845 (J) is the first edition in a book by the author; but the poem’s first appearance in a book was an unauthorized reprint in the second edition of A Plain System of Elocution by George Vandenhoff, a work advertised in the Broadway Journal of April 19, 1845.

The readings suggest that the text in the Literary Emporium (L) was authorized. That in Griswold’s anthology (P) is in half-lines; Poe approved of it in a letter postmarked merely “New York, April 19,” preserved in the Boston Public Library; the book was advertised in the Literary World of May 29, 1847. Both Saturday Courier texts (N, U) are validated by an introduction to the second.

The manuscript version of lines 103-108 (K) is certainly genuine; it was in the collection of Thomas McKee before 1900, and is now in the William H. Koester Collection at the University of Texas. The genuine complete manuscript (R) is now owned by Colonel Richard Gimbel, who recently issued a facsimile. It is obviously referred to in Poe’s letter of October 18, 1848, to Eli Bowen, published in American Notes and Queries, January 1965.

Alexander McKelly’s statement that he had set up “The Raven” and preserved the manuscript and sold it, recorded in The Bookman (New York) for June 1898, is unreliable; he was head printer for Graham, and probably set up “The Philosophy of Composition,” and he did save some manuscripts of Poe; I think he did not really save that of bits of “The Raven” but only liked to think he did. A “complete manuscript” reproduced in Muse: Anthology of Modern Poetry (New York, 1939) is generally regarded as a recent concoction. “Poe’s” letter of “May 10, 1849,” promising an autograph transcript of the poem, is a forgery.

The text here followed is that of the Richmond Semi-Weekly Examiner (T), the last authorized version published during Poe’s lifetime. The introduction accompanying it indicated that Poe had arranged for its publication in final form.

THE RAVEN [T]

[[v]]

[[n]]

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

[[n]]

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore —

[[v]]

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

[[v]]

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door — ­[page 365:]

5

“ ’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door —

Only this and nothing more.”

 

[[n]]

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

[[v]]

Eagerly I wished the morrow; — vainly I had sought to borrow

[[n]]

10

From my books surcease of sorrow — sorrow for the lost Lenore —

[[v]]

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore —

[[n]]

Nameless here for evermore.

 

[[n]]

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

Thrilled me — filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;

15

So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating

“ ’Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door —

Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door; —

[[v]]

This it is and nothing more.”

 

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,

[[n]]

20

”Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;

But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,

And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,

That I scarce was sure I heard you” — here I opened wide the door; —

Darkness there and nothing more.

 

25

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

[[v]]

[[n]]

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

[[v]]

[[n]]

But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,

[[v]]

[[n]]

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?” ­[page 366:]

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”

30

Merely this and nothing more.

 

[[v]]

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,

[[v]]

Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.

“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;

Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore —

35

Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; —

[[n]]

’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

 

[[n]]

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,

[[n]]

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;

[[v]]

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;

40

But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door —

[[n]]

Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door —

Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

 

[[v]]

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,

By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,

[[n]]

45

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,

[[n]]

Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore —

[[n]]

Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”

[[n]]

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

 

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,

[[n]]

50

Though its answer little meaning — little relevancy bore; ­[page 367:]

[[v]]

For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being

Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door —

[[n]]

Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,

[[n]]

With such name as “Nevermore.”

 

[[v]]

55

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only

That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.

Nothing farther then he uttered — not a feather then he fluttered —

[[n]]

Till I scarcely more than unuttered “Other friends have flown before —

On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”

[[v]]

60

Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

 

[[v]]

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,

“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store

Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster

[[v]]

[[n]]

Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore —

[[v]]

65

Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore

[[v]]

Of ‘Never — nevermore.’ ”

 

[[v]]

But the Raven still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,

Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;

Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking

70

Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore —

What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore

Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

 

[[v]]

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing

To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core; ­[page 368:]

75

This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining

[[n]]

On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,

But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,

She shall press, ah, nevermore!

 

[[n]]

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer

[[v]]

[[n]]

80

Swung by seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.

“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee — by these angels he hath sent thee

[[n]]

Respite — respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;

[[v]]

Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

 

[[n]]

85

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil! — prophet still, if bird or devil! —

Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,

[[n]]

Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted —

On this home by Horror haunted — tell me truly, I implore —

[[n]]

Is there — is there balm in Gilead? — tell me — tell me, I implore!”

90

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

 

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil! — prophet still, if bird or devil!

[[n]]

By that Heaven that bends above us — by that God we both adore —

[[n]]

Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,

It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore —

95

Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” ­[page 369:]

 

[[n]]

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting —

“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!

Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!

100

Leave my loneliness unbroken! — quit the bust above my door!

Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

 

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

[[v]]

105

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,

[[n]]

And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

[[n]]

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted — nevermore!

[1844-1849]

 


[page 369, continued:]

VARIANTS

1  while / as (U)

3  nodded / pondered (G); tapping / rapping (G)

4  rapping, rapping / tapping, tapping, (G)

9  sought / tried (A, B, C, E, F, H, L, P)

11  name / named (Q, U)

18  This it is / That it is (C, L, N, U); Only this (Q)

26  mortal / mortals (W)

27  stillness / darkness (A, B, C, E, F, H, J, L, N, P, U)

28  Lenore? / Lenore! (A, B, C, E, F, H, J, L, N, P, U)

31  Back / Then (A, B, C, E, F, H, L, P)

32  again I heard / I heard again (A, B, C, E, F, H, J, L, N, P, U); somewhat / something (W)

39  a minute / an instant (A, B, C, E, F, H, J, L, N, P, Q, U); a moment (M)

43  ebony / ebon (Q)

51  living human / sublunary (A, C, E)

55  the placid / that placid (R)

60  Then the bird said / Quoth the raven (A, B, C)

61  Startled / Wondering (A, C)

64  till his songs one burden bore / so, when Hope he would adjure (A, B, C); songs / song (H)

65  that melancholy / the melancholy (D, E, F, H, L, P; melancholy changed in S, but the change erased; only sa[d] can be read)

65  Stern Despair returned, instead of the sweet Hope he dared adjure — (A, B, C)

66  Of ‘Never-nevermore.’ / That sad ­[page 370:] answer, “Nevermore!” (A, B, C); ‘Nevermore — ah, nevermore!’ (D, E); Of “Nevermore” — of “Nevermore.” (F, H, L, P, Q)

67  my sad fancy / all my sad soul (A, B, C, E, F, H, J, L, N, P, Q, R, U, W); all my fancy (S)

73  This / Thus (H, U)

80  seraphim whose / angels whose faint (A, B, C, E, F, H, J, L, N, P, Q, U)

83  Quaff, oh quaff / Let me quaff (A, C, E)

105  demon’s / demon (A, B, C, E, F, H, K, L, P)

Except for the punctuation after “Lenore” in line 28, where the introduction of the interrogation mark by Poe in R and S seems a significant change, no record is made here of the many variations in punctuation, capitalization, spelling — Griswold’s text (P) is peppered with apostrophes, e.g., “ponder’d” — or the use of italics.

 


[page 370, continued:]

NOTES

1  The opening of Poe’s poem resembles the Thirty-third Ode of the Anacreontea; some lines in Thomas Moore’s version read:

’Twas noon of night, when round the pole

The sullen bear is seen to roll . . .

An infant at that dreary hour

Came weeping to my silent bower . . .

I heard the bitter night-wind blow; . . .

I trimm’d my lamp and op’d the gate.

’Twas Love! the little wandering sprite . . .

Fondly I take him in and raise

The dying embers’ cheering blaze.

Moore quoted the first line of the ode in the original Greek, which is more strikingly like Poe’s first line than is Moore’s English version. The parallel has been thrice reported independently: by John Patterson in Poet-Lore for July-September 1897, by Ernest Riedel in Classical Weekly for February 14, 1927, and by Gilbert Highet in The Classical Tradition (1947), p. 629.

1-2  The hair of the heroine of Poe’s tale “Ligeia” was “blacker than the raven wings of the midnight,” as Richard Wilbur (Poe, p. 144) points out; Frances Winwar (p. 75) remarks on the foreshadowing in the tiny couplet of 1824, called “Poetry.”

2  Poe questioned Susan Talley about the propriety of the “many” volumes rather than one (Weiss, Home Life, p. 187). But a scholar often turns from one volume to another and back again.

7  The following is from “The Gamester,” the thirty-third chapter of William Wirt’s Old Bachelor (Richmond, 1814), p. 230: “It was a few weeks after the death of my mother, that on the dark and stormy night in December, I was awakened by a loud knocking, and the cries of children at my door.” The chapter was contributed to Wirt’s book by David Watson and seems to have inspired an incident in Poe’s “William Wilson.” (See Richard Beale Davis, “Poe and William Wirt,” American Literature, November 1944, p. 218n.) The reader will perhaps recall the “Stanzas” by Keats, beginning:

In a drear-nighted December,

Too happy, happy tree,

Thy branches ne’er remember . . . ­[page 371:]

No earlier notice has been taken of this by commentators; the poem was not published in England until 1848, but it was in the famous Galignani edition (of Coleridge, Keats, and Shelley), from which American reprints were made in the early 1830’s.

7-12  Mrs. Weiss noticed that the arrangement of the rhymes in this stanza is different from that in the others (Home Life, p. 188).

10  See notes above on “Lenore.” The heroine is almost surely an imaginary person, as Henry H. Harper argues well in his rather slight introduction to a special edition of The Raven (Boston, 1927), for Poe was concerned from his youth with the loss of beautiful ladies, but some writers see Virginia Clemm Poe as the lady’s prototype. William Fearing Gill (Life, 1877, p. 140), suggested that Poe saw his wife “cold and breathless” — probably in a faint — and thought she had died. Another more incredible fancy is that of H. Alois Biedy, who decided the poem concerned the relations of the zodiacal Virgo (Virginia and Lenore for him) and the constellation Corvus, which is not zodiacal. See his Mysteries of Poe’s “Raven” (New York, 1936), passim.

12  “Nameless here” means “not called on by name or spoken to in this world.”

13-14  These lines were called fanciful by George W. Eveleth, writing Poe on January 19, 1847. Poe commented on the rhyme scheme in “Marginalia,” no. 147. Purple may be a symbol of wealth and of mourning.

20  A parrot is addressed as “Sir, or Madam” and a talking raven appears on the next page in the forty-first of the Noctes Ambrosianae, contributed to Blackwood’s Magazine for March 1829 by “Christopher North” (John Wilson). This correspondence was noticed in the Southern Literary Messenger of November 1857. Poe’s visitor is not so addressed after it is known to be a bird. Poe told Thomas H. Lane that he wrote his poem “to see how near to the absurd I could come without over-stepping the dividing line” (see Phillips, II, 896).

26  Compare “Ligeia”: “a melody more than mortal . . . aspirations which mortality had never before known.”

27  In the Saturday Evening Post of April 2, 1842, there is copied a free translation of Ferdinand Freiligrath’s “Gesicht des Reisenden” (1835), called “The Spectre Caravan,” of which lines 9, 10, and 17 may be pertinent:

And the stillness was unbroken, save at moments by a cry,

From some stray belated vulture, sailing blackly down the sky . . .

On they came, their hueless faces towards Mecca, evermore!

Compare also Politian, VI, 18: “I heard not any voice except thine own.”

28-29  Compare Keats, “Lamia,” II, 269-270: “ ‘Lamia!’ he shriek’d; and nothing but the shriek / With its sad echo did the silence break.”

36  See Othello, IV, iii, 53: “Hark, who is’t that knocks? — It’s the wind.” See Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” for “It is nothing but the wind in the chimney.” ­[page 372:]

37  Poe told Mrs. Weiss he thought “shutter” too commonplace. George W. Peck in the American Review for March 1850 (p. 310) cites Dr. Johnson as giving one meaning of “flirt” as “a quick, elastic motion.”

38-47  “The Dying Raven” of the elder Richard Henry Dana has “black plumage . . . like the armor of steeled knight of Palestine.” The poem was very well known and is mentioned in the controversy known as “The Longfellow War” as having no relation to Poe’s poem. There is little in Dana’s poem, lamenting a raven, a prophet of spring, slain by a farmer’s snare, that resembles Poe’s. But the controversy between Poe and “Outis” (who may have been Poe himself) is complicated, and the disclaimer of any relation may not be candid.

41  General O’Beirne (cited in the introductory commentary above) said that in the big room of the Brennan farmhouse there really was a plaster cast of a bust of Minerva on a shelf above the casing of the door. Such helmeted busts of the goddess of wisdom, the patroness of scholars (as Poe pointed out in his “Philosophy of Composition”), were popular; Mrs. Browning in her letter of April 1846 to Poe (quoted by Woodberry, Life, II, 164) said an acquaintance of hers had one and, after reading the poem, could not “bear to look at it in the twilight.”

45  A cowardly knight sometimes had his head shaved. The pun on “knightly” is surely deliberate; it is one of the humorous touches referred to in the American Review introduction. Ravens may indeed be knightly. Patricia Ann Edwards points out that in the thirteenth chapter (pt. I, bk. II, ch. v) of Don Quixote there is a reference to the tradition that King Arthur never died, but was turned into a raven (cuervo) by enchantment. It was this story, no doubt, that led the Duchess of Kendal to think the soul of her lover, George I, flew to her window, in the form of a raven after his death. Byron, crediting Horace Walpole, mentions this legend in a footnote to his Bride of Abydos, II, xxviii, 48.

46  Ravens are proverbially long-lived. See, for example, Pliny’s Natural History, VII, xlvii.

47  Compare Horace, Carmina, I, iv, 16f., “Iam to premet Nox fabulaeque Manes, / et domus exilis Plutonia.” In Harper’s Latin Dictionary, the adjective from which Poe’s word is derived is cited only from this passage. See W. P. Trent’s edition of The Raven (1894), p. 5.

48  The word “nevermore” is commonplace in English poetry. See many examples collected by Robert S. Forsythe in American Literature for January 1936, especially from Shelley, Tennyson, and Mrs. Hemans, who, as is mentioned in the notes to “Lenore” above, rhymes it with “Leonor.” Henry E. Shepherd, in a speech at the unveiling of the Poe Monument, quoted by Gill (Life, 1877, p. 300), thought Poe had in mind Shakespeare’s King Henry IV, Part One, I, iii, 224f.: “I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak / Nothing but ‘Mortimer.’ ” Professor Joseph Jones, in American Literature for May 1958, called attention to an anonymous poem, “The Raven, or the Power of ­[page 372:] Conscience,” in Fraser’s Magazine of March 1839, where a bird (who is called a prophet) speaks only the name of his master, “Sir Hildebrand.”

50  Compare “The Gold-Bug,” where a piece of parchment has a device which “suggested some meaning — some relevancy.”

53  Mrs. Weiss (Home Life, p. 189) said that Poe worried about what beast could assume the position described, and smiled “one of his rare humorous smiles” when she suggested a mouse could do it.

54  According to James Barhyte’s recollections, as a boy at Saratoga he heard Poe composing some of “The Raven” aloud and remarked, “Who ever heard of a bird named ‘Nevermore’?” — whereupon Poe exclaimed, “Just the thing . . . I need!” This story (from Marjorie Peabody Waite’s Yaddo, p. 21) is too amusing to omit — but I am not sure that I believe it.

58  Lambert A. Wilmer’s Merlin (1827), I, iv, 19, reads: “Like other friends he leaves thee in thy need.” Since the play concerns Poe’s romance with Elmira Royster, this may well be something he recalled.

64  Compare Midsummer Night’s Dream, III, ii, 416: “I followed fast, but faster did he fly.”

76f.  Poe considered “lining” here a blunder, but told Mrs. Weiss he was unwilling to sacrifice the whole stanza. He had used “velvet violet” in his parody on Drake in 1836. The word “gloated” has a rare meaning, “reflected light from,” but, as in “The Bells,” line 23, has usually some sinister implication.

79ff.  There are parallel passages in “Eleonora,” in which the heroine promised that she would “give . . . indications of her presence . . . with perfume from the censers of the angels,” and in “Ligeia,” where in “the rich lustre thrown from the censer” there was “a gentle foot-fall upon the carpet.” See Richard Wilbur, Poe, p. 144.

80  The tinkling has been unduly criticized. Professor William Gravely tells me that in an unprinted manuscript Thomas Dunn English said that he infuriated Poe by asking if the angels “had bells on their toes.” Poe wrote Eveleth on December 15, 1846, that he wanted the angels’ feet to do something supernatural. Whitty (in Complete Poems, 1911, p. 195) reports that F. W. Thomas said Poe referred him to Isaiah 3:16, which describes the daughters of Zion “making a tinkling with their feet.” If so, Poe ignored the unpleasant context.

82  Nepenthe is described in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, book IV, canto iii, stanza 43, as

. . . a drink of sovereign grace,

Deviséd by the Gods, for to assuage

Heart’s grief . . .

. . . Sweet peace and quiet age

It doth establish in the troubled mind.

This is the draught (from Egypt) which Helen gave her guests in Odyssey IV, 219-220, but the form there, as in Comus, line 675, is “Nepenthes.” ­[page 374:]

85  The passage may echo Agamemnon’s speech to the seer Chalcas in Iliad, I, 106f., in Pope’s version, “Augur accurst! denouncing mischief still, / Prophet of plagues, forever boding ill.”

There are many ancient, medieval, and even modern stories about ravens as prophetic — they were sacred to Apollo. Pliny has much to say of them in his Natural History — in VII, lii, he says, “It is stated that in Proconnesus, the soul of Aristeas was seen to fly out of his mouth in the form of a raven (a most fabulous story),” and in X, xv, that ravens are “the only birds that comprehend their auspices, for when the guests of Medus were assassinated [a crime of which no more is known] they [the ravens] all took their departure” from the Peloponnesus and Attica.

87-88  The rhyme was almost surely not imperfect for Poe; the old pronunciation “ha’nt” survives today in Tennessee and Kentucky.

89  Compare Jeremiah 8:22: “Is there no balm in Gilead . . .?” In Genesis 37:25 we read of Ishmaelites “from Gilead . . . bearing spicery and balm and myrrh,” but Poe’s reference, as in Politian, IV, 30-31, and “The Angel of the Odd,” is purely figurative.

92  Compare Henry Cary’s translation of Dante’s Inferno, I, 127f.: “ ‘Bard! by that God whom thou dids’t adore, / I beseech thee.’ ”

93  Poe uses the unusual spelling “Aidenn” (Arabic Adn: Eden) also in “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion” and “The Power of Words.” Edna B. Triplett in American Literature for November 1938 pointed out a poem in Graham’s for July 1841 (when Poe was the editor), called “The Dervish, an Eastern Legend,” by W. Falconer. In it the dervish, in a mosque, prayed, “Prophet of God! . . . / Grant me a token” and saw “a lovely bird / . . . The light of Aden bringing.” Poe uses “Eden” for heaven in “The Lake” and “To F[rances].”

97f.  John Lasley Dameron points out to me a poem by “G. F. W.” in Bentley’s Miscellany of May 1, 1838, called “The Raven,” in which we are told “that raven’s hollow croak / . . . As though the voice of a demon spoke” is “the token / Surely spoken” of death.

106  The line troubled Poe, who told Mrs. Weiss it was “hopeless, and . . . the chief cause of his dissatisfaction with the poem.” On December 15, 1846, Poe wrote George W. Eveleth that he had in mind a “bracket candelabrum, high up above the door and bust.” Mrs. Weiss (Home Life, p. 191) said that she later thought of a large fanlight, opening on a galleried hall such as is often found in old colonial mansions, with a lamp hanging from the hall ceiling. Patricia Ann Edwards suggests to me that there are steps down to the doorway within the room. There is still a clash with the darkness of the twenty-fourth line that might have disturbed the meticulous author.

107-108  In “The Philosophy of Composition” Poe said that here the intention of making the bird “emblematical of Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance is permitted distinctly to be seen.” C. Alphonso Smith (Poe, How to Know Him, p. 220) well says that “there is not a scintilla of remorse,” which some less acute critics have sought to find here.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 350, running to the bottom of page 351:]

1  Edgar Allan Poe (1885), p. 222. In 1922 Woodberry told me he considered it ­[page 351:] Poe’s greatest poem. Curiously enough, no translation was printed in Poe’s lifetime. The poem did in time find an ideal translation in France. Stéphane Mallarmé’s line-by-line version in rhythmic prose, “Le Corbeau,” preserves the spirit of the original, but is a masterpiece of a great French poet, too. It has had since 1875 immense influence on the writers of what we now call free verse.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 351:]

2  Quoted in Selections from the Autobiography of Elizabeth Oakes Smith, edited by Mary Alice Wyman (Lewiston, Maine, 1924), p. 123.

3  See Woodberry, Life, II, 425. Saunders’ unpublished autobiography has recently been found in the New York Public Library. He also mentioned that Poe, on another occasion, when not quite sober, declared his intention to read his poem before Queen Victoria. Poe was also perhaps not sober when he told William Ross Wallace that he thought “The Raven” the “greatest poem that ever was written.” (See Joel Benton in The Forum, February 1897, p. 733.) There is no reason to doubt that Elmira Shelton wrote, “When Edgar read ‘The Raven’ he became so wildly excited that he frightened me — when I remonstrated he replied that he could not help it, that it set his brain on fire.” (See Phillips, II, 1445.)

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 352:]

4  All those that can be dated before 1850 are listed here: (1) “The Owl,” by “Sarles,” in the Evening Mirror of February 17, 1845 (reprinted in the Weekly Mirror of February 22), is the earliest parody yet found. (2) “The Veto,” by “Snarles,” is in the New York New World of February 22, 1845. (3) “The Black Cat” was anonymously contributed to the Knickerbocker Magazine for April, issued about March 15, 1845. (4) “The Craven,” by “Poh!” in the Evening Mirror of March 25, 1845, advertises Gouraud’s Medicated Soap. (5) “A Vision,” by “Snarles,” in the New World of April 15, was copied in part by Poe in the next week’s Broadway Journal, with an introductory note headed “A Gentle Puff.” (6) “The Gazelle,” by C. C. Cooke, in the Weekly Mirror of May 3, in the Broadway Journal of May 10, had a complimentary notice by Poe, who said that the author was a boy of fifteen. (7) “The New Castalia,” in William W. Lord’s Poems (1845), parodies “The Raven” and other works of Poe; in a notice of the book in the Broadway Journal of May 24, Poe ironically called it plagiarism. (8) “The Whippoorwill,” signed “I.,” is in the Weekly Mirror of June 7, 1845. (9) “The Turkey” appeared in the Boston Jester in time to be copied into Alexander’s Weekly Messenger of Philadelphia for June 25, 1845. The Boston paper’s first number is acknowledged in the Broadway Journal of June 21 as a “slender imitation” of Punch; no copy of this ephemeral magazine has been located. (10) “The Pole Cat,” by a “Mr. Johnston,” is mentioned in a letter of Abraham Lincoln dated April 18, 1846. The poem probably was not printed. (11) “The Dove,” by J. J. Martin, D.D., was copied from an unnamed source into the Brooklyn Eagle of January 11, 1847, with a brief note by Walt Whitman, who praised “its graceful spirit of Christianity.” (12) Harriet Winslow’s poem is in Graham’s for April 1848. (13) “Moral II,” in The Moral for Authors (1849), by J. E. Tuel, is discussed by Poe in a letter of June 16, 1849, to Mrs. Richmond as aimed at himself. (14) “The Voices of the Night — a Poe-um, by Professor Shortfellow” is in the Boston Flag of Our Union of April 28, 1849. (15) “Oquawka Turning Works for Sale,” by J. Chickering, is in the Spectator of Oquawka, Illinois, for October 3, 1849. The editor of the paper was Poe’s correspondent E. H. N. Patterson.

In compiling the foregoing catalogue, which may not be complete, I gratefully acknowledge the help of Joseph Jackson, Dr. John W. Robertson, Cleveland Rodgers, and Lewis M. Stark.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 354:]

5  Weiss, Home Life, p. 185.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 355:]

6  This comes from an article by Frances Aymar Mathews in the magazine Bachelor of Arts for September 1896, largely reprinted in Phillips, II, 936ff. Cornelius Mathews told his niece about Poe when she was twelve years old. Some of the article concerns a discussion at the Park Theater about putting a raven in Mathews’ play Witchcraft, and how the playwright later met Poe in the street in the rain, writing his poem by the light of a street lamp. I think Mathews overly imaginative. See also Margaret Alterton, Origins of Poe’s Critical Theory (Iowa City, 1925), p. 29, for a later account by Miss Mathews, who believed her uncle.

7  William Sartain, son of the publisher John Sartain, mentions Hirst’s bird in a letter dated May 6, 1919, published in the New York Times of May 13. In a poem called “To a Ruined Fountain in a Grecian Picture,” first published in Snowden’s Ladies’ Companion for September 1842, Hirst wrote of

Forms of chiefs and maidens bright

Whom the never-dying raven

Hath forgotten, nameless even

In the poet’s lay of might.

This stanza may account for Hirst’s notion in later years, when harmlessly insane, that he wrote “Poe’s Raven.” Dr. Matthew O. Woods (Ingram List, no. 898) thought that Hirst’s “Unseen River” inspired Poe, but it has nothing about a raven in it and was first printed in the Broadway Journal on May 31, 1845, months after the publication of Poe’s poem.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 356:]

8  See Harry T. Baker in The Nation for December 22, 1910.

9  John H. Ingram, in his special edition of The Raven (London, 1885) reprinted in full Tennyson’s eight lines called “No More,” first printed in The Gem for 1831, and some lines from Albert Pike’s “Isadore” (see my comments on “Eulalie” above). Poe must have known Shelley’s wonderful lines called “A Lament,” with the refrain “No more — Oh, never more!” And he had seen Philip Pendleton Cooke’s “Lady Lenore and Her Lover” in the Southern Literary Messenger of January 1836; its possibly significant lines are “What balm sought I? — Forgetfulness” and “Kind Heaven hath sent this gentle one.”

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 357:]

10  J. H. Ingram says in his edition of The Raven (p. 12): “The late [Thomas] Buchanan Read even informed Mr. Robert Browning that Poe had described to him the whole construction of his poem and had stated [that] the suggestion of it lay wholly” in the line about the purple curtain. The debt was observed by Thomas Dunn English in The Aristidean for December 1845 and referred to in the Southern Literary Messenger for November 1857.

11  Landon C. Bell demolished the theory in his Poe and Chivers (1931). For defenses of Chivers’ belief see Joel Benton, In the Poe Circle (1899); S. Foster Damon, Thomas Holley Chivers, Friend of Poe (New York, 1930); and Charles Henry Watts II, Thomas Holley Chivers, His Literary Career and His Poetry (Athens, Ga., 1956). Chivers’ letter does not survive, but some of “To Allegra Florence in Heaven” was in print (in the rejection columns) in a Georgia magazine, The Orion, for March-April 1843.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 358:]

12  Home Life, p. 185.

13  James Barhyte told his story, about 1881, to the Reverend William Elliot Griffis, a pastor in Schenectady, and to Acosta Nichols, brother of Mrs. Katrina Trask, a founder of the artists’ colony. The fullest account is in Marjorie Peabody Waite, Yaddo Yesterday and Today (Saratoga Springs, 1933), pp. 16-23; but see also Woodberry’s Life, II, 112. Griffis published accounts in newspapers in 1884 and 1924. Mary Barhyte, who became a Mrs. Waddell, was in direct communication with Miss Phillips (see Edgar Allan Poe the Man, I, 764). Poe’s visit is confirmed by an apparently independent reminiscence of Peter Pindar Pease in the Outlook of September 1, 1920. Some of the story cannot be confirmed; I find no evidence that Mrs. Barhyte wrote for the New York Mirror under the pen-name “Tabitha,” and an earlier visit of Poe in 1842 may be an accretion.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 359:]

14  See also Harrison, I, 223; Phillips, II, 883; and Winwar, p. 255. I have myself heard the story from my lifelong friend Henry Mott Brennan, a great-grandson of Patrick and Mary Brennan.

Another story, that Poe wrote “The Raven” when he was drunk, has been heard by almost everybody, but has rarely been printed. It is absurd, for Poe was on his best behavior at the Brennan home. However, he probably had heard the rumor, for he made a sardonic remark to Mary Jane Poitiaux Dixon that he “wrote ‘The Raven’ when on the verge of delirium tremens.” She records this directly in a letter of July 2, 1875 (Ingram List, no. 237).

15  At Fordham (necessarily 1846-1849), according to Francis Gerry Fairfield in Scribner’s Monthly for October 1875; at Richmond (1848 or 1849), according to James K. Galt in Harrison’s edition, VII, 211; after meeting one Leonora Bouldin in Baltimore (1847 or later), given only as a query in the reminiscences of R. D. Unger, M.D. (Ingram List, no. 402).

16  From the Italian of “Leo Penzoni” (discussed above); the Chinese of Kia Yi (Chia I); the Persian of an author unnamed. See Ingram’s edition of The Raven, p. 84; Killis Campbell’s Poems, p. 232; and Phillips, II, 1646.

17  In addition to the notion of poor Henry B. Hirst (see footnote 7, above), there is a story that Poe merely polished a piece by an inmate of an asylum, both found never to have existed, according to Appleton Morgan, quoted by Harrison, I, 260. A malicious story that Poe received the poem as a contribution from one Samuel Fenwick (unknown to researchers) and purloined it when Fenwick died — a story refuted by J. H. Ingram in his edition of The Raven — is discussed in American Notes and Queries for January 1943.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 360:]

18  See Edwin Wolf 2nd, “Horace Wemyss Smith’s Recollections of Poe,” The Library Chronicle (Philadelphia, 1951), 17:90-103. This important article shows that the reminiscences were related to Hyman Polock Rosenbach, and not recollected by him as many Poe scholars have thought.

19  Fifteen dollars is the sum known from family tradition, according to Cullen B. Colton, who pointed out in American Literature for November 1938 that his great-uncle wrote James Russell Lowell on April 7, 1845, that it was less than twenty dollars. R. H. Stoddard gave the sum in his Poems by . . . Poe (1875, p. 74) from “recollection of the publisher,” as ten dollars, and this striking story is repeated constantly by biographers. Thomas Dunn English, writing in The Independent of November 5, 1896, thought it was thirty dollars; it is possible that a bonus was given later. The story in The South for November 1875 that “the late David W. Holley” bought the poem for five dollars is pure fiction. For J. H. Whitty’s statement that Poe told F. W. Thomas he signed the poem “Quarles,” “for a whim” and planned originally not to acknowledge it if it were a failure, see Whitty (Poems, 1911, p. xlvii) and Phillips, II, 940.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 361:]

20  Willis’ quotation is from Love’s Labours Lost, IV, ii, 25; “pokerish” means spooky — I have heard it used.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 362:]

21  Weiss, Home Life, pp. 186-193. I think discussions of this kind are the basis of reminiscences by some persons who long afterward thought their opinions had been sought while the poem was being composed. One of these was the witty Philadelphia editor, John Stevenson DuSolle, who wrote Mrs. Weiss that he and other “writers for the press” had been consulted (Weiss, Home Life, pp. 99, 184). Poe seems even to have discussed the poem with Sarah Anna Lewis (!), who, in her sonnet “First Meeting,” reprinted from the Home Journal of February 11, 1880, in J. H, Ingram’s Edgar Allan Poe (II, 262), wrote: “. . . to teach to me poetic art / Thy ‘Raven’, piecemeal, thou didst take apart.” One pleasant — even if fabulous — tale describes the poet as reading the poem, stanza by stanza, to several friends at the tavern of Sandy Welsh in Ann Street, and accepting their assistance. This story was first printed in Scribner’s for October 1875 by Francis Gerry Fairfield, who fathered it on DuSolle. It has been usually completely rejected by biographers; even Hervey Allen, Israfel (1926, p. 597; 1934, p. 478), calls it “fancy run wild.” But no one has considered the possibility of a consultation after publication, and the story persists among newspapermen in New York. Directories list Alexander Welsh’s restaurant in the vicinity named, and once his place is described as a terrapin-bar, which might well attract a Baltimorean.

22  The full text is reprinted by Whitty in Complete Poems (1911), p. 197.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 363:]

23  For an account of Poe’s public reading of “The Raven” in Boston, see the Annals for 1845.

 


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


Notes:

Errata:

  • On p. 360: “Living Writers of America” / “Literary America” [TOM refers to a comment in a specific manuscript, but confuses the matter by using the name of a separate, although closely related, manuscript. The full text of the “Living Writers of America” manuscript was first printed by Burton R. Pollin, Studies in the American Renaissance, 1991, pp. 151-211, although Pollin errs by including a long entry on The Wandering Jew as if it belongs to this manuscript. Instead, it is part of an unpublished installment of “Marginalia,” for which see Jeffrey A. Savoye, “A Lost Roll of Marginalia,” Edgar Allan Poe Review, Fall 2002, vol. III, no. 2, pp. 52-72.]
  • On p. 372, at the end of note 45: 48. / 48 (period added editorially) [This typographical correction is noted by Burton R. Pollin in his copy of TOM’s edition of the Poems]
  • On p. 372, for note 76f.: line 23 / line 22
  • On p. 374, for note 97f.: John Lasley Dameron / John Leslie Dameron (misprint of middle name) [This typographical correction is noted by Burton R. Pollin in his copy of TOM’s edition of the Poems]

Addendum:

  • On p. 364, near the end of the information on texts, TOM dismisses the May 10, 1849 letter to J. R. Thompson as a forgery, without further explanation. In revising the standard edition of Poe’s letters, the editors examined the issue carefully, and chose to retain the letter as authentic, based in part on information not available to TOM. The authenticity of the letter, however, does not necessarily mean that the promise of a manuscript copy of “The Raven” was fulfilled.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

[S:1 - TOM1P, 1969] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (T. O. Mabbott) (The Raven)